Opera: Last Week, East Berlin

The lights came up on the curtainless stage of East Berlin's Komische Oper last week, and there, pregnant with portents of disaster, hung a textured moon that looked like a fly's swollen eye. A shock. When John the Baptist was pulled barefoot from his cistern prison, his long matted hair hung down to his animal skin sarong. Another shock. Then came Salome with her veils and her dances, and in a spirit perfectly suggested by the jewel stuck in her navel, she treated an earnest audience to a performance of Strauss's shocker that came straight from the libido....